Saturday was my idea. A nice big meet and greet for the teachers and community members. A lunch. I knew rituals and celebrations are woven into the fabric of African life in general and the Maasai were no exception - whether it is the Ethiopian coffee ceremony or the serving of Chi in Maasailand. Chief Joseph was very pleased with my idea. “Oh, this will be very good!”, he beamed when I made the suggestion during one of our many planning conversations.
So a little more one day after touching down in Nairobi and after our first hectic, disorienting night in our guest house bunk beds, indoor toilet without plumbing, no running water, navigating a strange house in the absence of electric light, no mirrors or a hook to hang a thing on, Michelle, Joe and I and the Chief were off to Kimuka Village School bright and early.
The school was 20 exceedingly bumpy minutes from the house. We pulled up to the padlocked security gate which need unlocking. We were the first to arrive. To wait for the key bearer and the guests we were shepherded down the road to Floricana, a small eatery.
|Kimuka Village Schoolyard
The school is a right angle of continuous classrooms facing onto a wide expanse of dusty soil, save for a few good sized cactus, a circle of rocks around a flag pole and one lone tree. We were led to one of the rooms. I was asked how I would like the furniture arranged. Then we stepped outside while the floor was swept of the layer of brown dust that had accumulated during the August school break and tables and chairs were recruited from other rooms to form a big rectangle in the center. (I had learned in Ethiopia the idea of setting up ahead of time just doesn’t make African sense. When it’s time you do what has to be done.)
|Reading Aloud, The Giving Tree
I had given a great deal of thought to crafting this first meeting. More accurately, I agonized over what to say. Everything from the correct greeting (gender, number, formality of the occasion) to the briefest possible explanations of the key points about the project and its contents to finding visuals that would make a lasting impression.